Kevin Magnussen admitted it was great to be back racing after sitting out the 2015 season as McLaren-Honda reserve driver when he made his Renault Sport F1 debut during the Australian Grand Prix.
The Dane was disappointed to get a puncture on the opening lap of the race in Australia that left him out of points contention, and believes had he not had the puncture he could have secured points first time out for the Enstone team, ultimately finishing twelfth just behind team-mate Jolyon Palmer.
“Having been out of F1 for a year, it was very nice to be back,” revealed Magnussen. “It was a tough race, but I was really happy as the pace was very good.
“It was annoying to get that puncture at the start, which compromised our race. I didn’t have any contact as far as I could tell, but I saw the pressures coming down and knew that something was wrong.
“In some respects we were lucky to get the red flag, but it was even better that Fernando [Alonso] was unhurt as that was a big crash. We could get back to the pits and on to the grid and then I had the race from there.
“We had a good pace – on par with Williams and maybe even faster. We didn’t think we would have the pace of the top ten, but in the end we did. I’m gutted as we could possibly have been in the points if I had not had that puncture, but that’s life. For a first race, it looks very encouraging for the rest of the season.
“The feeling in the car was good and I was able to fight and overtake and put the car where I wanted to.”
Magnussen believes the Renault team are one of the best in Formula 1, and feels that once the they get a handle on the RS16 they can fight for regular points finishes.
“It is very clear that this team is a top team in F1,” said Magnussen. “Maybe not in terms of pace : we know where we are and we are not happy with this, but when we get the car faster we will be there.
“It’s clearly very driveable. It is not fast enough to be on the podium or even in Q3 but it’s a good car that handles well and it’s something we will continue to work on.
“We don’t need to change the philosophy in any way, just keep developing and it will come to us. We have a good baseline and something we can really work on. I didn’t have a good race but I am very happy as it looks good for the rest of the season.”
Looking ahead to the Bahrain Grand Prix at the Sakhir International Circuit, Magnussen admits it is not one of the most interesting tracks on the Formula 1 calendar, but is eager to get out on track once more.
“It’s not the most exciting track, to be honest!” said the Dane. “The heat is a major challenge and it is tough on the rear tyres so having a car that looks after them will be an advantage.
“There are also four long straights so it is a power orientated track. I will enjoy getting out there and if you ask me if the race could be tomorrow I’d be there, no questions asked!”